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Violence erupts in Chile amid 2-day nationwide strike; 450 arrests made, 42 hurt

Demonstrators and riot police clashed in Santiago yesterday during a two-day strike against the government. Demonstrators and riot police clashed in Santiago yesterday during a two-day strike against the government. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
Associated Press / August 26, 2011

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SANTIAGO, Chile - There was scattered violence throughout the night as Chileans demanded profound changes in the country’s heavily centralized and privatized form of government yesterday, but tens of thousands marched peacefully. More than 450 people have been arrested.

Union members, students, government workers, and Chile’s center-left opposition parties joined the nationwide two-day strike, which included four separate marches in the capital yesterday as well as similar demonstrations across the country. In many areas, families have grabbed spoons and spilled into the streets each night, participating in noisy pot-banging shows of support for the activists.

But violence also has broken out, with hooded, rock-throwing protesters confronting police, looting stores, burning cars, and setting up fiery barricades. Authorities said yesterday that 300 buses were damaged by thrown rocks and a train car was set ablaze overnight Wednesday. The overall arrest toll rose above 450, and at least 42 people were injured, Deputy Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla said.

While many youths, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, have been seen throwing rocks at police, it is not clear who is behind the violence. Government leaders accused student and union leaders of failing to control their people while activists alleged that undercover police and right-wing activists stirred up trouble. One of the buildings attacked overnight was the headquarters of the teachers union that is demanding that the government invest far more to guarantee free and equal quality public education.

Ubilla said seven more officers were wounded by projectiles overnight, for a total of 26 so far.

People burned a train car and looted municipal offices in La Granja, in a southern area of Santiago.

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